Price tag for fixing dilapidated Manitoba First Nations homes hits $2B: report

WINNIPEG - Internal government documents say Manitoba First Nations live in some of the most dilapidated homes in the country and it will cost $2 billion to eliminate mould and chronic overcrowding in that province alone.

See Full Article

That's almost 13 times more than the $150 million the federal government has budgeted for housing on all reserves across Canada this year.

Reports from Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, obtained by The Canadian Press under access-to-information legislation, say the housing situation in Manitoba has worsened as infrastructure funding has been siphoned off to other areas.

"As a result, Manitoba First Nations continue to face further deterioration in infrastructure," says the internal report dated January 2015.

"Current estimates indicate a $1.9B need to address existing overcrowding, replacement and major repairs related to mould and substandard conditions of housing units. Key challenges continue to include affordability, low income and high social assistance rates."

The report notes Manitoba has among the highest percentage at 29 of indigenous people living in poor housing in Canada. Officials say Alberta is the only other province in a similar situation.

One quarter of existing homes on reserves in both provinces need to be repaired or replaced.

Chief David McDougall said the situation is a "ticking time bomb" in his remote aboriginal community of St. Theresa Point in northern Manitoba. The waiting list for housing on the cluster of four reserves in his tribal council is 1,500. Last year, his reserve got 18 units.

They were the lucky ones. Other reserves got less than that.

It's not uncommon for 18 people to live in a small bungalow, McDougall said. Last year, there were 23 people living in a two-bedroom home.

"They had to take turns sleeping."

While the government's own estimates put Manitoba's housing needs at $2 billion, the department said $50 million is budgeted for on-reserve housing in the province this year.

That is to drop to $29 million next year.

Some reserves can build additional homes with a ministerial loan guarantee, but McDougall said that isn't available if the reserve is under third-party management. The department's internal report said only 30 per cent of Manitoba reserves operate independently.

People on McDougall's reserve are losing hope, he said. Suicides are on the rise while others turn to a homemade alcoholic concoction called "superjuice."

The federal government spent the last few years hooking up the reserve's homes to water and sewer, but McDougall compared that to putting new tires on a rusty, decrepit car.

"We need to find a proper, sustainable solution - what is realistic in terms of how we can begin to even make a dent in this huge backlog."

Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett said she's not deterred by the $2-billion price tag. She couldn't explain exactly how the new Liberal government will tackle the backlog, but said improving First Nations housing is a priority.

"I've been in those homes," Bennett said in an interview. "It is a disgrace for Canadians to watch. There is a consensus in this country that we have got to get going on this.

"The sticker shock on any of these things can't get in the way of us beginning what has to happen."

Ottawa has been warned before about the housing situation on Manitoba reserves. A 2011 internal assessment of on-reserve housing said communities don't have the means to maintain the homes they have, which often require "aggressive maintenance."

"The consequences are manifold: maintaining housing stock is costly, poorly maintained housing is unsafe and contributes to poor health, which in itself generates additional costs," stated the report.

An evaluation three years before found people on reserves were living in homes that were "falling apart" and rife with mould, which made them "not suitable for people with breathing problems." It noted two people died in one community "related to wiring and lack of heat. People were using a dryer to help heat a home."

Craig Makinaw, Alberta regional chief with the Assembly of First Nations, said the situation is dire for some First Nations. While some reserves with a source of income can afford to go above and beyond government funding, residents on other Alberta reserves wait up to 30 years for a home, he said.

"All the cuts that have happened over the years have caused this backlog," he said. "It needs to be addressed because it's not going to get any better."


Latest Canada & World News

  • Oland's Supreme Court bail case expected to proceed, no matter what happens with murder conviction ruling

    Canada News CBC News
    Dennis Oland's bail appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada is expected to proceed on Oct. 31, even if a decision from the New Brunswick Court of Appeal on his second-degree murder conviction makes the hearing a moot point for him. Source
  • University groups try to stave off offensive Halloween costumes

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- Geishas are out. Feathered headdresses are forbidden. And if you're planning to wear a Bill Cosby or Caitlyn Jenner costume, you may not be welcome at your Halloween party of choice. A growing number of institutions are starting to take a more proactive approach to potentially offensive outfits by developing strategies and even explicit policies to prevent people from donning controversial getups. Source
  • Widows of Boko Haram victims say aid overdue to Nigeria

    World News CTV News
    MAIDUGURI, Nigeria -- After her husband was killed by a Boko Haram suicide bomber late last year, Hajjagana Mbasaru was forced to pull her children from school and rely on friends to feed them. Like other widows of civilians fighting the Islamic extremists in northern Nigeria, she spent long months waiting for any kind of government support. Source
  • Thousands flood Cameroon hospitals in search of injured from train crash

    World News CTV News
    YAOUNDE, Cameroon -- Thousands of Cameroonians have been flooding hospitals in the capital, Yaounde, and the largest city, Douala, looking for corpses and survivors after an overloaded train derailed Friday, killing more than 70 people and injuring 600. Source
  • Russian police kill 2 terror suspects, recover bomb: reports

    World News CTV News
    MOSCOW -- Russian news reports say police have killed two suspected terrorists in a shootout in a central Russian city and that a bomb was found in the suspects' car. The reports on state television and state news agencies RIA Novosti and Tass said the shooting started Sunday afternoon when police stopped a suspicious vehicle in Nizhny Novgorod, a city 400 kilometres (250 miles) east of Moscow. Source
  • Trump's agenda overshadowed by lawsuit threats, accusations, personal spats

    World News CTV News
    GETTYSBURG, Pa. -- Donald Trump is laying out an ambitious agenda for his first 100 days as president but pointedly noting that he will find time to sue the numerous women who have accused him of groping and other unwanted sexual behaviour. Source
  • Ballot selfies: Personal choice or illegal act?

    World News CTV News
    TRENTON, N.J. -- Most Americans probably already know whether they'll vote for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton on Election Day, leaving one important question to consider when they walk into their polling places: Is it OK to take a picture of the ballot? Source
  • Iraqi, Kurdish forces join to drive ISIS from Mosul

    World News CBC News
    Iraqi and Kurdish forces launched a new offensive Sunday on a town near Mosul as part of a massive operation aimed at retaking the country's second largest city from the Islamic State group. The Kurdish forces, known as peshmerga, said they launched a dawn offensive on two fronts to the northeast of Mosul, near the town of Bashiqa. Source
  • Rafferty to appeal Tori Stafford murder conviction

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- The man convicted of killing eight-year-old Victoria Stafford seven years ago will ask Ontario's top court for a new trial Monday, trying to pin the blame on his accomplice. Michael Rafferty was sentenced to life in prison in 2012 with no chance of parole for 25 years for kidnapping, sexual assault causing bodily harm and first-degree murder in the death of the Woodstock, Ont. Source
  • N.B. village still cut off weeks after excavator fell through bridge

    Canada News CTV News
    An excavator that fell through a historic bridge in New Brunswick earlier this month is still there, raising safety concerns for those in the area. The excavator remains in the same place where it fell, leaving the 102-year-old covered bridge in French Village, N.B. Source